Ewine van Dishoeck studies the tenuous, ice-cold clouds of gas and dust grains that are found between the stars, like those in the Orion Nebula of which the Hubble space telescope has made such breath-taking images. These clouds contain all sorts of molecules that are interesting in themselves: due to the unusual conditions in space, molecules are present that are not normally found on Earth. But another fascinating thing occurs in many of these clouds: they are the birthplaces of new stars and planets. Van Dishoeck looks at the formation processes of these celestial bodies, and studies which molecules will end up on one of these new planets. For example, where does the water in our oceans come from?
Van Dishoeck has been awarded many prizes and honours, including the Kavli Prize for astrophysics in 2018, the highest scientific award in this field worldwide. Van Dishoeck is also known for her work on the development of the next generation of telescopes and satellites. These are nearly always international collaboration projects in which Van Dishoeck assumes the role of bringing together people, resources and organisations. She holds many international functions, including President of the International Astronomical Union 2018-2021.
Van Dishoeck conducts her research from the Leiden Observatory, one of the most illustrious institutes of astronomy in the world.